Experiences of pilot who fought in WWII can still inspire: CMG editor-in-chief

(From left) SPH Media's Chinese Media Group editor-in-chief Lee Huay Leng, former foreign minister George Yeo, Captain Ho Weng Toh and Mr Fred Ho at the launch of the Chinese edition of Captain Ho's memoirs on Oct 31, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The experiences of 102-year-old retired pilot Ho Weng Toh, whose life as a student was upended by World War II, can still be an inspiration to people today, said Ms Lee Huay Leng, editor-in-chief of the Chinese Media Group, a part of SPH Media.

Ms Lee said: “I especially feel that Captain Ho’s book can give us a lot of inspiration today as we are also living in a turbulent period. People participate in the events of their times in different ways, so the emotions and experience will not be one-dimensional.

“If we take a deeper look at the history of Singapore, it is actually very rich. The key is whether we know where to look, how we perceive it, and how to cherish it.” 

Ms Lee was speaking during the launch of the Chinese edition of Captain Ho’s memoirs, titled Memoirs of a Flying Tiger - the story of a World War II veteran and SIA pioneer pilot, at the SPH auditorium on Monday.

The book was published by Focus Publishing, a custom publishing subsidiary of SPH Media. 

Ms Lim Woan Fei, a digital content executive producer at Chinese daily newspaper Lianhe Zaobao, translated the book from the original English version which was co-written by Captain Ho and freelance writer Jonathan Sim, and published in 2019.

Present at the book launch was Captain Ho, who was joined by about 80 people, made up mostly of friends and family members.

A 21-year-old university student in Hong Kong, Captain Ho had to flee bombs dropped by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 when they invaded China.

Then he came across a newspaper advertisement calling for pilots to join the Chinese Air Force .

By the end of the war in 1945, the Ipoh-born Mr Ho had flown 18 combat missions in a B-25 Mitchell bomber over occupied China.

This sparked the beginning of a 38-year flying career for the last surviving member of the “Flying Tigers”, the legendary Chinese and American joint flying squadron, which fought against the Japanese in World War II.

In 1951, Captain Ho joined the now-defunct Malayan Airlines, the precursor to Singapore Airlines, spending nearly three decades at SIA before retiring as chief pilot in 1980.

He said: “I am proud of my Chinese heritage and cultural roots. It means a lot to me for my memoirs to be told in Chinese, especially when many key events, which were turning points in my life, took place in China during WWII.”

The Chinese edition of Memoirs of a Flying Tiger was translated from the original English version which was published in 2019. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Former foreign minister George Yeo, who also spoke at the launch, said that stories like Captain Ho’s were an important part of Singapore’s history.

Said Mr Yeo: “In the past, we tended to neglect history not connected with the founding of Singapore as an independent country... many of these streams flow into the river which is now Singapore…without these streams, there is no Singapore river. Captain Ho is one such river, and there are many others who have contributed to Singapore’s eventual independence and development.”

The book, which is priced at $22.50 before goods and services tax, will be sold at major bookstores from Monday and available online at Lianhe Zaobao’s ZShop.

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